Polls closed across Israel at 10 PM last night, ending a three-and-a-half month’s national election for Jerusalem’s 21st Parliament – the Knesset – that has highlighted a deep divide within Israel’s diverse society. And despite multiple pre-election shifts among many of the parties and factions, which subsequently shaped a new political landscape to Jerusalem’s future legislature, most Israelis viewed these elections as a referendum for the country’s long-serving Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. With the majority of votes counted by the Central Elections Committee, Benjamin Netanyahu‘s ‘Likud’ and Benny Gantz’s ‘Blue and White’ have tied with 35 mandates-each, out of the Knesset’s 120 seats, forcing both leaders to seek-out the smaller parties for the purpose of forming a minority coalition. This fact has effectively provided the incumbent Prime Minister with a landslide victory. Netanyahu’s so-called natural coalition partners, the right-wing-religious bloc, have garnered 65 mandates all-together, compared to the Gantz’s center-left bloc which has only secured 55 seats; successfully paving the way for Netanyahu’s fifth term in office.
Following is the list of parties that passed the electoral threshold and will accumulate to form Israel’s 21st Knesset: Netanyahu’s Likud 35 mandates, Gantz’s ‘Blue and White’ 35 mandates, both Ultra-Orthodox parties ‘Shas’ and the ‘United Torah Judaism’ have won 8 mandates each, the Labor party 6 mandates, the Arab Communist Party 6 mandates, Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ‘Yisrael Beiteinu’ won 5 mandates, the newly established Ultra-Nationalist ‘Right-wing Union’ has gained 5 mandates, the Ultra-left-wing ‘Meretz’ secured 4 mandates, Incumbent Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon barely cross the electoral threshold with 4 mandates, and the same goes for the Arab Nationalist Union of Ra’am-Balad, securing 4 mandates, as well. It is important to note that not all votes hxave been counted, and that a slight shift may present in upcoming days.
Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his excitement, following the published exit polls, terming the achievement as a “tremendous victory.” In his words: “I’m very excited this night, it is a night of a tremendous victory, a tremendous one.” / “Because a significant mission guides us, a significant mission guides me. I act day and night in your name, for you, for our state, for our people, for our land.”
In response to all of his critiques, whom consistently claimed the Israeli public’s dismay with his leadership, Netanyahu thanked the people of Israel for providing him with more mandates than ever before. He said: “I am very moved that the people of Israel have yet again granted me their vote of confidence, the fifth time, and even a more significant confidence (than the previous term). (The people of Israel) have yet again granted me their confidence, for all of us and myself. This is unprecedented. When did we receive these many mandates? I don’t remember.”
Netanyahu revealed that he has already started discussions with his natural coalition partners, whom already pledged to grant him their support to form the next government coalition. While the incumbent Prime Minister underlined that he plans on forming a right-wing government, he vowed to be the leader of all Israeli citizens, from all sectors of society. “I started discussions with the leaders of right-wing parties, our natural partners,” / “almost all of them, already declared publicly that they will recommend me, to Israel’s President, to form the next government (coalition). I plan on completing this task quickly, in order to establish a stable national government.” / “I want to clarify; it will be a right-wing government. But I plan to be the Prime Minister of all the citizens of Israel. Right and Left, Jews and non-Jews as one, all the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Despite the fact that Netanyahu’s political bloc secures him a clear mandate to form the next Israeli government; his main rival, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz refused to accept defeat. Instead, the former IDF chief of Staff declared his faction’s victory, and claimed that it is he who will be tasked with forming the next coalition government. “In elections there are losers, in election there are winners and we are the winners,” Gantz said.
It is important to note, however, that General Gantz made his speech based on the exit polls that granted his party a slight edge over Netanyahu’s Likud. Nevertheless, the referred to edge has shifted overnight in Netanyahu’s favor, with his Likud party attaining 26.27 percent of the final count, as opposed to Blue and White’s 25.94 percent.
Reflecting the tied outcome of the mandates won by the two main parties, Israelis in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv voiced mixed reactions to the election-results. Tel Aviv Resident Dani Ehrlich said: “I was quiet stunned and sad. I think I am a bit naive because I thought there will be a change here, a change for the better, a change for going forward towards peace, towards everything that its better and I am a bit scared, I hope for the best.” Moshe Trope, also from Tel Aviv Resident, was quoted saying: “I am really very happy about it. I am very pleased about it because I think Netanyahu is a great leader. Israel is a strong country, it is a wealth country and I think it will be better now. I don’t think that Gantz and Lapid have enough experience, and that is the reason I am very happy about the results.” Jerusalem Resident Arnona Weiler articulated her position, saying: “I am devastated, absolutely devastated. We are surrounded by right wing radical people who want to annex more territories. In this part we will never have peace. I am terribly upset, terribly saddened, and it is the shock of my life, I was sure that this time we would win. Terrible.” Meriyam Orbakh, anther Jerusalem Resident said: “I got what I wanted. Just because in my opinion there is no better alternative. You can’t just come out of nowhere and became a prime minister, and Bibi has all the experience and big achievements. On his personal account it remains to be seen what is going to happen with it.”
With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on an almost assured course to assume his fifth term in office, Israel’s stock-exchange market reacted positively, opening at above average at 0.5 percent. Manager of the trade-room of the First International Bank of Israel explained that Netanyahu’s re-election provides certainty, which grants Israel’s market much desired stability. “The market likes certainty. And when you look at the results of the elections in Israel, there is nothing new. So, the market is positive. It is opening at above average, around 0.5 percent on the stock-exchange. We see the Shekel (Israeli currency) strengthening to 3.5750. So I think we are going to go the same way we went before. Looks like a positive way. That’s what the market likes and feels,” the Trade-room Manager said.